"We must never forget. This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 911 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al-Qaida would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting, this is fundamental to the defense of our people." — Barack Obama, August 2009)
Well that sounds pretty clear, doesn’t it? This is from August, a mere month ago. Our president says that this is a war of necessity.
But today we are listening to the fulminations of the administration as it goes through a series of national security council and other senior level meetings, some with the commanders responsible for the military operations in Afghanistan and some without them.
You can’t tell the players without a scorecard, as they say, so let me spend a few minutes making sure you understand what we can discern from the outside is the state of play within the Obama administration as it seemingly seeks to walk away from that very clear statement made by the president before the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Phoenix last month.
First of all, of course, there are the views of the military itself:Gen. Stanley McChrystal has provided a report to the president in which he says, very explicitly, that we need more troops on the ground in Afghanistan to implement the strategy which Obama sent him to develop and execute. This is a counter-insurgency strategy. He is being backed up in that assessment by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, and by his immediate superior Gen. Patraeus (the architect of a similar and highly successful counter-insurgency strategy in Iraq).There are reports that Gen. George Casey, the former commander on the ground in Iraq and now the chief of staff of the Army is leaning against this plan, so there may not be a unified front on the part of the military.Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a holdover from the Bush administration who presided over the implementation of the successful surge in Iraq, seems to be sitting on the fence. He is literally sitting, he said, on the recommendations that McChrystal offered and may be leaning in the direction of a change of strategy.
Vice President Joe Biden has said that we don’t need to be fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Instead we should be worrying about al-Qaida. The Washington Post put on its front page Thursday a story about how we’re really making great head-way against al-Qaida. I hope that’s true. Apparently, we’ve penetrated the organization with spies, which is clearly what is required in order to defeat an organization like al-Qaida. I hope that is also true.
And then over in the State Department, there is Hillary Clinton who seems to have rather more testosterone than others in the administration. She’s leaning in the direction of more troops for McChrystal and reportedly working to do that with special envoy Richard Holbrooke.
And then not in the room but also weighing in is Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who recently visited The Washington Times editorial board and reported that he thought it would be a disaster if we throw in the towel in this Afghanistan campaign.
It reportedly will take many meetings to sort this out, perhaps even weeks, before the president decides whether the strategy he enunciated in March and then affirmed before those veterans in Phoenix last month is still the policy of the United States government.
In the meantime, folks, the message that is unmistakably being sent to our friends, as well as our enemies, is that America is unreliable. Perhaps it is better to be our enemy than our friend.
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy, a columnist for the Washington Times, and host of the nationally syndicated program, Secure Freedom Radio.
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